A Joker mask, a baseball bat, a bus ride, an armed robbery

Crime

Harold VanHooser said he 'got the itch' to commit a robbery

Harold VanHooser, 71, April 8, 2021 (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — An Oregon man faces felony charges after he allegedly robbed a local watering hole while wearing a “joker” mask and armed with pepper spray and a bat.

Harold Lynn VanHooser, 71, faces charges of first-degree robbery, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, first- and second-degree unlawful use of mace, and attempted second-degree assault.

He was arrested on additional charges of kidnapping, criminal mischief and assaulting a police officer, but Multnomah County prosecutors aren’t pursuing those charges at this time.

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Gresham Police first spotted VanHooser as he was “walking briskly” on East Powell Boulevard while wearing a clown mask and sunglasses on Wednesday, April 7, according to a probable cause affidavit.

With the dispatch radio chattering about a bar robbery at Jimmy’s, 851 Powell Blvd., Officer Hoecker pulled over on Powell, spurring VanHooser to pull out an orange-and-black baseball bat, according to court documents. The officer jumped back into the car, and VanHooser brought the bat down on the top of the patrol car, court docs say.

VanHooser attempted to pepper spray the police officer, but then said “I’m done” and laid on the ground, per the affidavit. Police confiscated the clown mask and found handcuffs, a pocket knife, fireworks, a hammer, and a crowbar inside a Popeye’s fast food bag, records report.

Another officer who responded to Jimmy’s interviewed bartender Allison Venson, who told police they had been robbed by a man wearing a “Joker” mask who had entered the establishment, threatened one patron with a bat and yelled “give me all your money,” court docs say.

Per the docs, the suspect pepper sprayed a man who was sitting at the video lottery machine and ordered the bartender to grab money from the safe. When she returned, $77.75 was missing from the cash register and the masked man was gone.

“Vanhooser told (police) that he had committed seven armed robberies and had recently been paroled after the 9th Circuit had reversed his life sentence,” according to the probable cause affidavit. “He explained that today he ‘got the itch’ and decided to take a bus from Aloha to commit a robbery far away from where he was living.”

VanHooser remains behind bars at the downtown Portland jail at this time.

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